Cover of book, Passionate Supervision

Published in 2008 by J.Kingsley
Editor: Robin Shohet

Breaking the Box. Supervision – a challenge to free ourselves

A child is having a terrible nightmare. Isn’t our instinct to take it gently in our arms, hold it tenderly and by lovingly talking to it encourage it to wake up? In this chapter I show how I invite my supervisees to do exactly the same with their clients:

Rather than to examine their client’s stories and to explore their feelings I encourage my supervisees to open up to a bigger reality and by doing that help their clients to go beyond their own stories.

We do not suffer because life is so painful. We suffer because we have outgrown the box we have built around ourselves and are in danger to suffocate. What is needed is not the healing of wounds, but our willingness to break out of our boxes. Passionate Supervision offers a way to do this.


BBC1 Inside Out London, Broadcast on 28/11/11

A short documentary about the allotment project I have run for Freedom from Torture.

Tribute to Clive

Photo of Jochen and Clive on the allotment

For some 20 years Clive was working for Freedom from Torture with refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world who were survivors of torture. He brought his love of the outdoors, of nature and gardens into the organisation. This love transformed many lives - and ultimately transformed his too. He asked me to talk about this love.

For 10 years every Wednesday Clive and I met, with a group of clients, on an allotment. The allotment had a big gate. When we stepped through that gate we entered a different world. Nature! What a relief it was to come here. We encouraged ourselves and our clients to focus on that relief, to leave outside the gate, our emotions, thoughts, all the events that had been bombarding us throughout our lives and the past week. We encouraged everyone to find out who we are when not boxed in by ourselves.

Of course no gate is strong enough to keep everything out, many issues slipped though and had to be dealt with - but we always, always reminded each other to go back to nature, attend to the soil, breathe out, get out of our own way and, above all, not take ourselves so seriously.

As a result our meetings, all 500 of them, were packed with a lot of laughter. Also how little Clive and I knew about each other’s lives! We were just not interested in our stories - that is why we know each other so well.

One day, long after we had worked together, Clive asked me to come and visit him in hospital. He wanted to tell me something - and there was not much time left for him. When I arrived I heard myself say:  what the hell has happened to you? He looked like a dying man - but that was not what I was referring to.

Yes, he said, that is why he has asked me to come. A few days before something happened. But actually the power of that event is in the fact that it was not an event at all. Nothing actually happened. It was the lack of an event that blew me away. I observed myself exhaling, this kind of exhale when we entered the allotment. But to my utter surprise this time no inhale came back. I watched my body breathing in and out. But I was only breathing out. Like the sun that does not need refuelling, radiating heat for ever. What a relief it was when I looked at myself and my body and instantly knew, that this is not me. I am not the emotions, thoughts and events I thought I am defined by. I am the relentless power of this ever radiating heat. I am not part of nature. I am nature! I am all of it!

The relief cannot be measured or explained. Its only expression is a continuous experience of joy and love.

Indeed, the next hour or two we laughed and talked and cleared some unfinished thoughts - while he was stroking my hands continuously. He just about was able to contain his love - jokingly I pointed out that soon he will have stroked the skin off my bone.

It was time for me to go. It was funny to watch how mind for a moment tries to create an event to bring in some emotions: "The last time we see each other", "A last embrace". But the joy and love that was in the room did not provide any opportunity for an emotion or the idea of an event to settle down. Even if it had been possible, why would we ever choose an event and emotions over joy and love? Leaving him was truly a non-event.

Clive has not left us. We leave him when we create events and pack them with our emotions. Let’s recognise this gathering as a most powerful and beautiful non-event - and find Clive right in the middle of it.